At the start of free agency, the Redskins had several defined needs: cornerback, right tackle, tight end, safety, inside linebacker and maybe a complimentary running back and wide receiver.
The team miraculously solved most of the crucial needs despite a strict cap penalty, including cornerback, tight end, and went to a four-way battle for right tackle since they couldn’t find a long-term solution.
Washington was able to retain 12 of their own free agents and brought back players like Fred Davis and DeAngelo Hall, who was cut in the beginning of free agency to save $8 million in cap space, at bargain prices. Winning a division sure changes things around Redskins Park, doesn’t it?
The only starter from 2012 that does not appear likely to return is safety Madieu Williams, who suffered from an inconsistent, up-and-down season.
Prior to last season, the burgundy and gold had expected Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson to start at safety.
Meriweather was bothered by a knee injury that cost him the first eight games of the season, including a Week 4 incident where teammate Aldrick Robinson ran into him during pregame warmups. Robinson was knocked out cold and Meriweather reinjured his knee and did not play until Week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Against Philadelphia, Meriweather was the most impactful player on defense, logging seven tackles, two passes defended and intercepting a pass and taking it 25 yards. He did all this in just over one half of play before tearing his ACL and facing a six month recovery period.
In March he restructured his contract to help save the Redskins $1.25 million against the salary cap.
Jackson was suspended for one year on Aug. 31, 2012 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy for the third time. He is eligible for reinstatement on Aug. 31, 2013. He signed a one-year deal last offseason but the NFL allowed his contract to roll over into this season.
The only other safeties on the roster are Reed Doughty, who is known for his special teams ability, Jordan Bernstine, who suffered a torn ACL against the Saints in the 2012 season opener as a rookie, 2011 fifth round pick DeJon Gomes, and Jordan Pugh, who was signed to take Bernstine’s spot on the roster last season.
As it stands right now, the safety situation is iffy at best and is the team’s top need. Luckily for the Redskins, the draft is rich with quality safeties through the first few rounds.
However, we all know that when it comes to the draft, coach Mike Shanahan doesn’t do things by the book. With right tackle as a need last season, Shanahan decided to pass on Mississippi tackle Bobby Massie in the third and fourth rounds when fans were clamoring for help at that position. Instead, he selected backup guard Josh LeRibeus and quarterback Kirk Cousins in those rounds.
Washington doesn’t pick until No. 51 in the second round, but there should be a good crop of safeties to choose from. Here are five options the Redskins might consider when it’s time to make their selection.
Jonathan Cyprien – Florida International – 6’0″, 217 pounds
2012 Stats: 93 tackles, four interceptions, one forced fumble.
Pros: FIU’s all-time leading tackler. Good at beating receiver and running back blocks. Physical. Good ball skills. Special teams experience.
Cons: Route recognition. Speed. Long-term durability. Route recognition.
Matt Elam – Florida – 5’10”, 208 pounds
2012 Stats: 76 tackles, four interceptions, two sacks, one forced fumble.
Pros: Strong when walking up into the box and can be a force at the line of scrimmage. Physical tackler. Energetic. Can play strong and free safety.
Cons: Lacks ideal size. Struggles in coverage. Can overpursue tackles and miss out on tackling opportunities.
Eric Reid – LSU – 6’1″, 213 pounds
2012 Stats: 91 tackles, two interceptions.
Pros: Big frame. Aggressive. Strong instincts and leadership ability.
Cons: Tackling. Can sometimes be overaggressive.
D.J. Swearinger – South Carolina – 5’10”, 208 pounds
2012 Stats: 79 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles.
Pros: Passionate and intense. Team leader at South Carolina. Possesses corner skills. Brings an intimidation factor.
Cons: Overaggressiveness led to penalties in college. Can be too vocal and not as disciplined as teams would prefer.
Phillip Thomas – Fresno State – 6’0″, 208 pounds
2012 Stats: 84 tackles, eight interceptions, four sacks, four forced fumbles.
Pros: Instinctive with strong anticipation skills. Playmaker. Led nation with eight interceptions in 2012.
Cons: Speed. Needs to become more of an intimidator. Missed 2011 season with broken left leg and dislocated left ankle.